Τhe “Εταιρεία Μελέτης της Καθ’ ημάς Ανατολής - Etaireía Melétēs tēs kath’ ēmās Anatolȇs” (Society for the Study of the Greek Orthodox Orient) is a non-profit organization based in Athens and dedicated to the scientific study of the history and culture of the Greek Community in “the City” (Constantinople/Istanbul), and of the way the life of that community had been organized in the past. It is a unique organization, with a unique history and a unique character, worth some explanation for the uninitiated.
Until 1923, it was the Hellenic Literary Society of Constantinople (Ελληνικός Φιλολογικός Σύλλογος Κωνσταντινουπόλεως), founded in 1861, that had functioned as a veritable academy, producing countless literary and historical studies by and about the Greek community of the City and Asia Minor, and constituting the center of intellectual and cultural life in the City and far beyond. The Philological Society was dissolved in 1923, its library and archive confiscated by the victorious Turkish national government. This left a tremendous void in the cultural and scholarly life of the community, at the same time that the Greek Orthodox communities of Asia Minor/Anatolia were forced to resettle in Greece due to the Greco-Turkish population exchange.
The Greek Orthodox community of Istanbul/Constantinople (along with the islands of Imbros/Gökçeada and Tenedos/Bozcaada) was of course exempted from the Greco-Turkish population exchange in 1923 and allowed to remain in place with minority protections ensured by international treaty (Treaty of Lausanne). But they, too, lived in a kind of void, relatively forgotten by both the Greek and Turkish nation-states. They were furthermore subject to periodic persecution which made life increasingly untenable for many—a dramatic example being the Wealth Tax (Varlık Vergisi) of 1943. A great majority of the Greeks of Constantinople left their homes and relocated, largely to Athens, after a series of specific anti-Greek policies after World War II, such as the pogrom of September 6-7, 1955 known as “Septemvrianà” and the mass deportation (1964) of citizens of Greece from Istanbul.
While no comparable institution to the Philological Society emerged to replace it after 1923, there were informal activities and associations, in Istanbul/Constantinople and later, in Athens among expatriate Istanbul Greeks, that made an effort to preserve the legacy, or at least the memory of the Society and maintain a cultural and intellectual presence for Istanbul Greeks, in Istanbul and abroad as they left the City in greater numbers. There were associations of alumni from the famed Greek schools of the City, Athletic clubs, and cultural associations, which together preserved a semblance of the cultural life that Greeks of Istanbul had known before 1923. As Istanbul Greeks relocated in greater numbers to Athens, many of these associations were established there as well, and continue to operate today.
It was in response to this situation that three “Polítes” (Constantinopolitan/Istanbul Greeks) who were also historians—--founded Η Κίνηση της Καθ’ ημάς Ανατολής - he Kínēsē tēs kath’ hēmās Anatolȇs (“the Greek-Orthodox Orient Movement”) in Athens in 1991 in order to study and preserve the cultural life and heritage of the Greeks of Istanbul/Constantinople and Asia Minor, often focusing on or building on the work that was done by the Greek Literary Society itself before 1923. This “movement” has grown into a vibrant cultural circle and network and for the last thirty years its members have worked in creative ways to promote the study of “the City’s “Rōmiosynē,” loosely translated as “Rum-ness” or perhaps “Greek-ness,” by organizing congresses and publishing historical and literary studies on Greeks of Istanbul. While they would never claim to be successors of the Hellenic Literary Society before 1923, they are in a sense the keepers of the memory of that institution and the cultural and intellectual life it produced.
The name “He Kath’emas Anatoli” (Η Καθ’ημάς Ανατολή) has a unique history and meaning in and of itself, and merits some attention. It means literally, “Our Orient” or “Our East” and stems from a long tradition in the Greek-speaking, Greek Orthodox world of referring to the Eastern Mediterranean/Middle East area as “Ours.” Its origins lie in ecclesiastical law, where the term referred to the faithful under the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchates of Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria. In a broader sense, when the term is used today, it refers to a kind of proprietorship that does not hinge on political sovereignty as much as spiritual belonging, and cultural and historical experience, and even a kind of indigeneity in the “East.” We may think about it as the historically Greek Orthodox presence, and Greek dimension of the “Orient.”
Among the publications of Etaireía Melétēs tēs kath’ ēmās Anatolȇs, are the historical and cultural bulletin, Η Καθ’ ημάς Ανατολή - He Kath’ hēmās Anatolȇ (five issues/volumes), plus the Bulletin of “Εταιρεία Μελέτης της Καθ’ ημάς Ανατολής - Etaireía Melétēs tēs kath’ ēmās Anatolȇs” (three issues/volumes), the minutes of conferences.
All publications are available for exchange with periodical publications of university departments and schools, and scientific societies. We have also given our publications for free to various public and open-to-public libraries, and we continue to do that, despite the meager resources that we have.
“The “Analects of Kath’ hēmās Anatolȇ” (Tα Ανάλεκτα Της Καθ’ ημάς Ανατολής): The series consists of studies, which, due to their length, cannot be published in the journal of history and culture.
The “Conferences of Kath’ hēmās Anatolȇ” (Τα Συνέδρια Της Καθ ημάς Ανατολής): The series consists of the minutes of five of the seven conferences organized by our society.
The “Popularized Speeches for Everyone” (Οι Εκλαϊκευμένες Ομιλίες για Όλους): The series consists of speeches, given at events organized by our society.
The “Anthologies of Kath’ hēmās Anatolȇ” (Οι Ανθολογίες Της Καθ’ ημάς Ανατολής): The series consists of volumes with poems and creative essays.
The “Memories of Kath’ hēmās Anatolȇ” (Οι Μνήμες Της Καθ’ ημάς Ανατολής): This series consists of ten volumes dedicated to the memory of persons who stood out in the cultural life of “the City” and/or are dedicated to “the City”s Greek schools for girls (e.g., Iōakeimeion).
The “Latent” Ones (Τα Λανθάνοντα): This series consists, in reprints, publications about the topics studied by our Society, but are out of print or have been forgotten. And,
“Rōmiosynē” (Η Ρωμιοσύνη): This series aims at presenting and showing the life of the Greek community of Istanbul, Imbros (Gökçeada) and Tenedos (Bozcaada) in all its aspects.Rōmiosynē: The Greek-Orthodox Community and its culture (with an emphasis on its eastern Roman or Byzantine and Christian-Orthodox aspects), everything tangible and intangible it has created and/or used.
The journal of literature and the arts: Η Δεξαμενή / Η Κινστέρνα - Dexamenē / Kinstérna (Reservoir/Cistern)
Our society has published ten issues of this journal in its first form (Dexamenē), and thirty issues in its second (Kinstérna). It is already the longest-living journal of literature and the arts of Constantinopolitan Greeks, since 1923.
Connected with our journal of literature, there is a series entitled “Ta Noùfara” (the water lilies), which consists of literary works, published on a stand-alone basis, of people who regularly contribute to Kinstérna. Six books have been published so far as part of this series.
Our publications are also available at the Bookstore of the Educational Foundation of National Bank of Greece (MIET), and at the Bookstore “O Politis”, in the Exarcheia neighbourhood of Athens. links